An African Election

Democratization in the developing countries is an issue that is highly debated. The meaning and scope of democracy has been on issue for quite long time. Does democracy mean only ‘go and vote’ similar to what Schumpeter’s procedural definition or something else? It seems that evolution of the 2008 Ghana Elections as ‘successful’ stems from the procedural definition of democracy. Is democracy also successful to make a ‘real’ change in the lives of masses in Ghana, as NDP’s motto ‘time for change’ called out?

‘An African Election’ was a great documentary that gave insights from the election process in Ghana. Close contact with the presidency candidates during their rallies, interviews and talks with electoral commissioners, journalists, ex-presidents, and rival party members showed what an election looks like in Ghana. The documentary covered time span from the 28 days before the elections to several days after the result announcement.

Although ’An African Election’ tried to draw a hopeful picture for the Ghanan democracy, an interview made by a farmer called Mosses Imoro highlighted how democracy is ‘hopeless’ in Ghana. The farmer argued that politicians can easily tell lies and therefore their promises brought no benefit to citizens. Indeed, making a promise was a quite random thing for a politician in Ghana as I observed it for a night rally before the run-off elections captured in the documentary.  That politician promised Muslim community to turn their local airport into an international one: so that, Muslim citizens would directly fly to Makkah. Very random but a big big promise.

Apart from all promises hang on the air, people were seemed to be believed in democracy in the documentary. They mentioned the interviewer their ten hours of queuing to vote. The documentary captured the passion of the crowd to participate the vote counting process to “see the result with their own eyes”. It is possible to argue that the belief in democracy in Ghana lessened the cliental and tribal fractions. Lindberg and Morrison (2008) showed that “only one in ten voters is decisively influenced by either clientelism or ethnic and family ties in choosing political representatives, while 85 to 90 percent behave as ‘‘mature’’ democratic citizens”. The determination for democracy was seen among citizens of Ghana in the 2000 election as well. Only 5 percent of respondents voted according to suggested personal gifts, assistance, or promises from the candidates and only 8 percent made their references to familial or ethnic bases.

According to the documentary, many observers, and media agencies, elections were conducted in a “peaceful, transparent, and dignified manner ”.  On the contary, Jockers et al (2010) argued that electoral fraud along with inflated voters’ register took place during the election. In the same article, diplomatic and technocratic biases in election monitoring and unreluctance of the responsible authorities to investigate the problem was also mentioned. The end result of this irresponsibility and unreluctance were seen as the creation of a “dangerous time bomb for future elections”.

A journalist interviewed in the documentary saw democracy ”absolutely meaningless” when ”people still suffer from poverty, ignorance, and disease” and when wealth generated equitably but distributed non-equally. He argued that democracy should not be diminished to ”put a piece of paper in a ballot box”.

Democracy is not only limited to ‘go and vote’ action. Elections are not events organized in order to be won by the politicians through gathering in front of the crowd and giving them random promises, which won’t be realized.

Democracy is worth if only it prospers lives of the poor, prevent diseases spread, supply safe food for masses as Mosses Imoro, the farmer, had imagined. Democracy should not be an end but a mean for a brighter future for whole society.


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